Going by my results in the Asian Games, one would think 2006 was an easy year for me. It was anything but that.
I had mixed results because from the start of the year most of my time was consumed, trying to raise funds to participate in international tournaments. This was a crucial year because of the Women's World Championship for which I was the top seed. I wanted to win the title to fulfill my dream of becoming the World Champion. But things didn't go my way.
I have been struggling to get a sponsor since last year as Bank of Baroda withdrew. We tried many things, approached the government and private companies but things didn't work out till the middle of this year when I joined the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in July.
Funds crunch meant that I couldn't participate in the events that I had wanted to in order to prepare for the World Championship. I was under pressure and it affected me. The end result was that I couldn't play as well as I had wanted to in the World Championship in March.
It ended in huge disappointment for me as I lost to Marie Sebag of France in the second round. However, things changed dramatically once my monetary worries ended, and the second half of the year was very good. So much so that I will be adding 22 points to my current ratings of 2545, inching closer towards my aim of crossing the 2600 barrier in ELO ratings. I aim to do that in the coming year.
It all started with a good performance in the Lausanne Young Masters where I reached the quarterfinals and finished sixth. The Cape D'Agde Rapid tournament in France was also good as I defeated former World Champion Anatoly Karpov.
That was undoubtedly the biggest win of my career as Karpov is a legend and getting the better of him, in any form of chess, is a big high for a young player.
Then came the Asian Games. It was a unique experience as the concept of mixed team was interesting. Being part of the Indian contingent and winning the first gold medal for the country was exhilarating.
The good thing for me was that I only lost two games out of 18 that I played in Doha and won two gold medals. But the games were not that easy as there were some strong and talented players in the fray.
Besides the good results, I was also happy with the standard of my play as I improved a bit this year. I played a number of new openings that have enriched my game and given me the confidence to improve further in 2007. I would be mostly playing in men's events in 2007 and hope to gain as many points as possible.
As told to B Shrikant.